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What does it mean to reimagine IT?

by Mark P. McDonald  |  January 24, 2011  |  3 Comments

Last week Gartner announced the results of Gartner’s 2011 CIO Survey and Agenda under the theme of reimagining IT. The idea behind this theme is that CIOs and IT leaders have an opportunity to use new business priorities and technologies to create value in new ways

The idea of reimagination comes from entertainment industry which has recently created whole new storylines simply by asking ‘what if we…?’

The answer to that question has led to changing situations, characters and plots, and new opportunities to tell the story.  Reimagination has given several ‘franchises’ new life form rebooting Star Trek, to the third restart of the Batman franchise, to relaunching Spiderman and others. In drama, reimagining has set the works of Shakespeare in Mid-Town Manhattan, in outer space and revised the works of Emily Bronte and Jane Austin.  Each of these and other reimaginations give new life to the story by giving it a new context that gives new life and value to familiar things.

This is exactly the opportunity forming for CIOs and IT leaders.

Here is why.

Business expectations and strategies are broadening to include a focus on growth in addition to cost control.

Growth opens the door to investment and innovation two things that have been constrained for the last few years. IT has the opportunity to do something other than hold the line on costs.

Internet based technologies collectively known as the cloud, are transforming IT resource and cost structures. Leading CIOs are already using these service-based technologies to liberate people and budget reducing the percentage of their budget committed to operating current solutions. The good news is that many CIOs report that they are able to keep those savings provided the redirect resources to projects that deliver growth or clear business value.

Consider an average IT shop that has 70% of their budget assigned to operations and 30% assigned to developing new solutions. A change of 10% in the operations budget to 63% produces a 20% increase in the new solutions budget. The potential of that resource shift, which some reported as substantially more, gives CIOs the resources to create the new solutions that matter.

Without those resources, reimagining IT would remain a dream – an unfunded aspiration.

Reimagining is what CIOs can do with that funding and a focus on growth. Now some will call for ‘re-inventing IT’ or IT transformation. Frankly, that is an empty call, one that appeals to emotions rather than reality, particularly in the short term. Why? For the simple reason that IaaS, PaaS and SaaS technologies are still evolving and business needs are continuing to change.  Things are too much in flux to say that there is a definitive umber-IT model. If someone tells you they are, put your hand on your wallet and ask how this benefits me relative to how it benefits the person telling me everything is going to change.

Reimagine first; think about how you can change the story of IT by changing the resources, characters and plot of IT. All need changing, because they were based on the fundamental idea that IT exists to build things. We have won that war and efforts to refight it will be met with little sympathy or acceptance.

The next story line for IT is not to build new things but to create greater enterprise results and increase the yield on investments in IT assets. We are already seeing this as CEOs are recasting the CIO role, increasingly filling it with people with business leaders than technologist. Why? Because business people know how to get results in addition to governing resources.

This is a unique time for IT as CIO strategies focus on new architectures and the potential of these lighter-weight technologies. With business expectations for growth and cost cutting on the minds of CIOs, the door to reimagining IT is wide open as well as the technologies involved to reposition IT, but more on that latter.

That is what we mean by reimagining IT.

Related posts on the theme of re-imagination include:

How do you Re-imagine IT?

What is the difference between remaking and re-imagining IT?

What we need to re-imagine IT for 2012

What we need to re-imagine for 2012

Apply ‘creative destruction to re-imagine IT

Re-imagining IT as an experience rather than an expenditure

Re-Imagining IT’s value in the enterprise.

Three things required to re-imagine benefits realization

It is time to “THINK small’

From Deterministic to Dynamic: changes that will require re-imagining your organization and its technology.

Re-imagine IT the 2011 CIO agenda

Category: 2011  leadership  re-imagine-it  strategic-planning  

Tags: 2011-planning  it-and-business  it-leadership  it-strategy  reimagine-it  

Mark McDonald, Ph.D., is a Vice President and Fellow Emeritus in Gartner for General Managers Program.

Thoughts on What does it mean to reimagine IT?

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